A Week in the Life of a Farm Family

April 8th, 2017 by National Genealogical Society Blog Editor

Benjamin Hundey and one of his plow horses, Gratiot County, Michigan, about 1920.

Historical Context, T214, “A Week in the Life of a Farm Family,” 9:30 am, Thursday, 11 May 2017

By Speaker: Annette Burke Lyttle

So many of my ancestors—and probably of yours, too—were farmers that I’ve become interested in finding ways to tell their stories. My farming ancestors didn’t keep diaries, and I don’t have collections of their letters, so I’ve had to turn to other resources in order to learn what their daily lives were like.

In 1790, 90 percent of the population of the United States was engaged in farming. It wasn’t till 1880 that the farm population dipped below 50 percent of the U.S. labor force, and by 1900 it was still more than a third of the U.S. population, at 38 percent. So it’s not surprising that we have so many farmers in our family trees.

In this presentation, we’ll explore what life was like for farm families in the 1600’s, 1700’s, 1800’s, and 1900’s, looking at what a typical’week was like in each of those centuries.We’ll take our farming ancestors from the early Colonial days through the Revolutionary War, into the young and expansive United States with its technological innovations and finally to the 20th’century and the decline of the family farm.

Along the way we’ll get to know what tools they used, what crops they grew, how they kept house, how they socialized, and how they dealt with life’s joys, hazards, and tragedies. We’ll look at resources for finding the stories of farm families in various parts of the country so you can fill in the lives of your own ancestors.

I look forward to seeing you in Raleigh!

Photo Credit: Annette’s great-great grandfather Benjamin Hundey and one of his plow horses, Gratiot County, Michigan, about 1920. Hundey Family Papers in possession of Annette Burke Lyttle.